director Mark Stevenson calls this "Checkpoint 0" All racers meet up at
the Grinnell Steakhouse to pick up race number, cook their own steak or
chicken, talk with other gravel nerds and listen to a pre-race meeting.
said "This year would be a tough one. Mother Nature is the wild-card".
He mentioned all the fresh, deep gravel around Grinnell and the rains.
Two other TIs have been called due to weather and there was one TI when
no one finished.
Even though 120 racers signed up in November, only 94 showed up.
That night it rained. And it rained some more.
race starts promptly at 4 am in from 'Bikes to You' in downtown
Grinnell. There was no rain, but it was in the air. The temp was 38
degrees and wind was brisk and chilly. There were racers in
short-sleeved jerseys and others with Winter boots and balaclavas.
Most folks were on cross bikes, a few mountain bikes and two fat bikes. There were 3 female and 91 male racers.
chose smartly and wore my rain jacket with a wool base layer, tights,
shoe/toe covers and water-proof gloves from the start. I figured it it
rained, I would be money ahead. If it did not, I would eventually
overheat and have to pull over to strip off some layers.
all lined up, Mark gave a few words, we gave him a round of applause
and 30 seconds later, we were rolling down the street... It was about a
3 mile controlled roll-out... before we hit gravel and the race
'started'. As soon at my tires hit the gravel, you could feel them sink
in. The road was super-saturated. I shifted a couple of gears down.
were two lines of racers. Lights from blinkies and headlights were
everywhere as were puddles, dips and gravel piles. At some points it was
like 'slinky' at rush hour where you have to stop really fast, then
speed up really fast, an then repeat over and over.
About 10 miles in, folks started to spread out and Andy and I started to move up in the pack.
Mile 13... the mile I will never forget. This is when the rain started and the wind picked up.
Riders were scattered on the side of the road putting on rain gear. Andy and I just passed right on by.
was still pitch black out, and there were rivers of water along the
sides of the gravel roads. There were a bunch of rollers so was climbing
at 10-11 mph and going downhill at only 15-17 mph. The roads were
really sketchy as the bike wanted to wash out and you could not take a
hand off the bars to drink or eat without fear of losing control.
had a long stretch of side-wind and then an 8 mile stretch of
head-wind. Right before we turned into the head-wind, I stopped to put
some latex medical gloves over the top of the cycling glove and under my
water-proof shells. I also downed a GU and some water. I could feel
the water starting to seep in and that extra barrier really helps. Our
next stretch was 10 more miles of monsoon-like side-wind from the other
At this point there we were 34 miles in, riders were very
spread out and we were riding between a couple packs of 3-4 riders
each. The gravel will still super-sketchy and it actually let up on a
rain a bit.
We came up on a
1 mile stretch of Level B road at 34 about 3 hours and 20 minutes into
the race. There was one tire-track down the middle for about 30 feet
(before it veered off into the ditch) and some footprints on each side.
This is where I noticed that there were not that many tracks which we
guesstimated we were no further back than 15th place? I was kinda
excited for the Level B. I had devised a harness where I could carry my
bike with ease and was eager to try it out. Although walking versus
riding still sucked, the harness worked superbly !! Sometime we could
walk in the ditch, but other times there was a deep gully on one side
and a steep hill on the other. The mud was slick and sticky. I lost one
toe cover and right foot had at least 5 pounds of mud that worked its
way into my shoe cover. There is a great shot of the Level B below.
Cut-Off Gettin' Close
The first cut-off was at 8:30 am at 53.49 miles
The Level B walk took the energy out of the legs, but it was light out and easier to see the road imperfections.
We had 16 miles to go and only ONE hour before the cut-off.
The roads were still mushy and we could only sustain 9-12 mph and even less up hills.
Our spirits were dwindling and reality of not making it to the first checkpoint were setting in. We kept rollin' anyways.
And... It Was Over
mile 45, Andy had a sidewall blow out. We booted the tire (twice) but
and lowered his pressure to under 30 psi just so it would not blow out
again. Well.. it did at mile 46.5.
Mile 47 approached
and we saw Joe Stiller's Sprinter Van with a few folks standing in the road.
Andy rode on his rim to the van and we stopped to see what was up. Joe
(who was on a fat bike) had broken a crank and called in his ride.
soon as we stopped the wind made us all hypothermic. Andy got set up
for a ride and I made the decision to grab a ride too, cause I did not
have anyone at the checkpoint 5 miles away... and we already missed the
checkpoint cut off.
So roughly 5 hours into Trans-Iowa V11, as a
rookie, my 'race' was over. I was too cold and hungry to be too
depressed. The warm van ride back felt great and thanks to the guy who shared
his sandwiches with us! Thanks to Joe Stiller for the ride!
There Can Be Only One
Not only did WE not make the cut-off, but 93 other racers did NOT make the cut-off either! Unbelievable!
traveled fast that only ONE racer made it to the cut-off with less than
5 minutes to spare. It was Greg Gleason (aka Highlander) who had won
Trans-Iowa v10. The next guy arrived 10 minutes late and then a small pack was 15 minutes later. Most others turned around earlier after their dreams were shattered.
made it to mile 123 before it was over for him. Even though the weather
ended the race for ALL of us, Greg was declared the winner of TIV11.
(fyi - the next cutoff was 167.09 miles by 8:30 pm)
It was the shortest Trans-Iowa to date.
Mess with Mother Nature - She will always win. No matter how good of
shape you are in physically and mentally, the weather is always the
I feel like I packed a little too much gear, but given the weather, I would have used it all over the whole course.
harness - I'll never do a long gravel ride without a harness again. It
was well worth it for the ease of carrying the bike. I was also able to
take a full frame bag to keep gear at my fingertips and the weight distribution low
on the bike.
Wear rain pants if
you got 'em. I had 'em, but did not want to stop to put them on. My legs
were fine. It was the tights than allowed water to get into my shoes.
My rain pants would have stopped that.
As funny as it may
sound, I bought some dish-washing gloves at Walgreens. I thought they
would be good for warmth and water-proof-ness in a time of need and they
packed up into no space at all. I did NOT take them. I wish I would
Don't put shot-blocks in a plastic container. With the humidity, they get all sticky and won't come out of the damned container.
Have a beer or two the night before. It's not gonna wreck your performance!
YES. HELL YES.
I did not get a chance to take any photos, but THANKS to these photographers, we've got something to look at!Wally Kilburg
- Start line, Sarah Cooper, muddy slopKeisuke Inoue
- Level B color photoJason Boucher
- Rider #57, and the rest of the AWESOME black and whites!
- Greg Gleason (left) and Mark Stevenson (right)